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Q. I find your column very helpful. I am currently looking to sponsor my wife but there are some issues with respect to her daughter that has a medical problem who will be included in the sponsorship. I have been researching various representatives and calling around – some charge consult fees and others do not. Is there a difference?

A. This is a very common but excellent question and one where opinions will vary. My own policy is to charge for the consultation, spend the time but then credit the cost towards the flat costs of handling the immigration case. I feel that sometimes with free consultations comes very little practical advice i.e. you are getting what you are paying for because there are time limits (15 minutes, 30 minutes, 4 minutes) and really the structure does not allow for a full consideration of the issues.
The real benefit for most practitioners who offer free immigration consultations is to get clients into their offices who might not otherwise attend.
The reality however is if a client does not pay for an initial consultation it is unlikely they will be inclined to pay for the immigration process. For those that cannot afford the consultation there is Legal Aid, lawyers taking on (no fee) cases and settlement services like COSTI who can assist. My rule is absolute in all areas of life when it is important to me – go to someone who knows what they are doing, pay a reasonable fee for their time and services and have the job done right. Immigration, citizenship and refugee issues are critical to people’s lives like yours and are not, in my respectful opinion, a time for bargain hunting. Sometimes during an initial consultation you will find out there is no chance for success in your case so for a consultation fee you save yourself thousands of dollars, wasted time and wasted dreams.

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